Oasis

The Dating Game

Humor by Kevin Isom

Have you ever been on a date where, halfway through the evening, you realized something about him that just made you have to go to the restroom and laugh? Like the time in college when I went out with a guy on the swim team whom everybody wanted to go out with. He was cute, had a great smile, and a swimmer's body. But as I was sitting across the table from him at dinner, it suddenly occurred to me that he reminded me of a lemur. You know, the cute South American animal with the big stick-out ears, triangular face, and cute soulful eyes? And I thought to myself, "Wait a minute. I can't date a pet." So I had to go to the restroom and laugh, because, of course, it would be rude to laugh in your date's face, and hard to explain.

Generally speaking, there are a couple of different approaches to the dating game. There's the focused approach, where you choose one person to ask out--or be asked out by--and you focus your energy and thoughts on that one date. This is sometimes called putting all your eggs in one bastard, with credit to Dorothy Parker for the quote. The other approach is the shotgun or scattershot approach, when you just load both barrels and let fly. My friends have a word for this dating approach: slut. But dating does not automatically imply sex, and you have to open plenty of Captain Crunch before you find the magic decoder ring that fits you. I often take the shotgun approach myself, which, I realize, tends to make me sound like Barbie at her Malibu Beach House ("if your name is John, this must be Thursday").

Whatever your approach, before you even get to the first date, the critical moment of making the date must occur. There ought to be some simple method for this, along the lines of how I read in the World Book Encyclopedia when I was ten that a child is conceived when the man places his penis in the woman's vagina. Simple enough, I thought then. Much more complex, I realized later. Asking for a first date is sort of like that.

Whether you meet in a bar, the gym, a business networking group, or out rollerblading (braking being the greatest problem there), it's always a contest of nerves: who will ask whom out? Generalized groping is inappropriate and doesn't count, and is especially difficult on the aforementioned rollerblades. As the consummate coward, I usually let the other guy ask me out. Though, of course, engraved name and number cards tend to ease the process. (I jest, of course. They're thermograph.) When he finally pops the question, the next decision is what to do for the date. Where I live in the South, it's dinner, probably an outgrowth of the Southern hospitality thing--and there you are at lemur city. In the rest of the world, it seems to be coffee, except in California, where it's mineral water or low fat gourmet yogurt or something.

No matter what your dating style is, that first date is always the interview date. Sort of like dinner with the Gestapo. But one where you're worried about how you look. There are, of course, a couple of pre-date coping mechanisms to ease the trauma. If your mood is right--and you go to the gym six days a week--you can wear something body-conscious to distract him. The theory is that if his tongue is on the floor all evening, he can't ask too many questions. This usually works. Or if your style is more restrained, you can try the boy-next-door-look. Dress like Opie all grown up, and let him ask the questions, to which you respond enigmatically. Confusion is a strategic advantage, and he'll never suspect your ploy when you look like Andy Griffith is your dad.

Any way you try to defuse it, though, it's still an interview. One where you're trying to keep the lettuce from sticking between your teeth. Inevitably, there is the usual slew of questions. Where are you from? Where did you go to school? Did you empathize with the ice pick-wielding murderer in Basic Instinct? The insidious part to the interview date is that you know you have to go through it to get the job, if and only if both of you agree to hire each other. And dating thereafter is like a job, albeit with some unusual perks (kissing, heavy petting, sex, Saturday mornings in bed--you get the idea), fraught with issues and complexities.

For instance, there is the potential issue of incompatible senses of humor. Like the time when I spent Easter in Pennsylvania with my ex-boyfriend. We were at a table of 16 of his closest friends at brunch, when I announced, in a voice like I was holding a cigarette, that we had celebrated Easter in the most appropriate fashion: Early in the morning, we'd both risen. My boyfriend was not amused. One of the reasons, no doubt, that he is now an ex. (Speaking of ex's, when someone who you thought was a prince turns out to be the wicked witch in disguise, do you: (A) cry for a month, (B) ignore it and go on with your life, or (C) put his parents on the P-FLAG mailing list?)

There are even problems of a more, shall we say, personal nature. Like the issue of navel lint. Without getting too detailed, say you're getting hot and heavy, and you notice from your close-up view that your partner's navel has a fuzzy resident. It happens to the best of us, but there's a clear dating etiquette question involved. Do you: (A) ignore it, (B) discreetly remove it and say nothing, or (C) yell, "Navel lint! Get the Dustbuster!" I tend to opt for the Electrolux, as in, "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux," my favorite ad campaign when I was living in England.

While we're at it, and along similar lines, who invented colored condoms? More importantly, what were they thinking? Put a yellow one on, and it's like getting boinked by sunshine. A red one looks like Santa Claus, and I don't know if I want Kris Kringle in my chimney. A green one brings back those childhood Lucky-Charms-Leprechaun-run-amok nightmares. Then, of course, there's my favorite, blue. It looks like Papa Smurf. I can't help throwing my voice and crying out "Smurfette! Are you in here?" Which tends to break a mood pretty quickly.

But I digress. Before you reach the later dating issues of humor, hygiene, and bedtime fashion, a more immediate question comes to mind: who calls whom after the first date? If it's a great date, you both leave messages on each other's voice mails the morning after. If it's a good date, one of you leaves the other a message the next afternoon. If it's a bad date, your eyes started to glaze over during coffee, and he didn't take the car out of gear when he dropped you off. A great date leaves you smiling as you ponder the next date, and you find yourself wondering if your last names sound good together in hyphenated form. A good date leads to thoughts that, like a good wine, more dates could get better over time. A bad date means that even if you'd gone as Opie-all-grown-up-but-naked, things wouldn't have been any better. Or, if you're particularly charitable, and he at least stopped the car when he dropped you off (though he didn't take it out of gear), you can give yourselves the benefit of the doubt and try one more time. It's all a part of the dating game.

At certain parties, a friend of mine and I used to do our own abbreviated version of "Gone With the Wind," which we called "Gay With the Wind." He played Rhett, and I played Ashley. We would embrace, and I'd look up at him and say, "Oh, Rhett!" with as much passion as I could muster. He'd reply, "Oh, Ashley!" and we'd move closer in each other's arms. Then I'd say, "But, Rhett, what of Miss Scarlet?" And he'd answer, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!", and we'd kiss passionately. The only person who didn't like this display was my mother at my 25th birthday party, but she'd never seen me lock lips with anyone before, much less with a tall man calling himself Rhett. Still, that's the kind of dating moment that we all fantasize about--or at least, I think we all do. Okay, I do. The kind where the game is over, the passion overwhelms you, the interview is past, and you don't have to worry about laughing at a lemur.



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